"Southern Baptists should heartily celebrate what has been accomplished in Haiti," said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response, one of the key partners in the Rebuild Haiti alliance. "It is amazing what has happened in such a short period of time, but there are still thousands of people living in tents and much to be done."
"Rebuild Haiti" is a cooperative venture that also involves Haitian Baptists, the International Mission Board, the Florida Baptist Convention and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. In the past 18 months, Southern Baptists have invested more than $4.5 million in assisting survivors of the earthquake. Besides building houses, the disaster response effort has included feeding programs, medical clinics, school assistance, beds for 2,200 orphans and prosthetics fabrication, as well as many other projects. Baptist volunteers from Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Dominica and Grenada have worked alongside U.S. and Haitian volunteers.
The goal of the home construction campaign has not been just to build houses, but rather to build Haitians and their communities, said David Brown, who with his wife, Jo, directs Baptist Global Response work in the Americas.
"About 50 Haitians have been trained and employed as supervisors on job sites. Each of these has been training two assistants," Brown said. "As a result of community transformation, small businesses have been created to meet construction supply needs and transportation of those supplies. Small diners and shops have sprung up to provide daily necessities. The impact of Rebuild Haiti will be felt for generations to come."
Home construction has been coordinated in about 30 communities, Brown said.
Southern Baptist volunteers who have endured the heat and hardships of post-earthquake Haiti can find satisfaction in knowing their efforts have made a difference for thousands of Haitians, Palmer noted.
"We are, however, still entertaining volunteer teams who are interested in helping in Haiti, but we are asking them to diversify into other activities," Palmer added. "There are needs in the medical and healthcare areas, as well as for water wells. We are working on some poultry/farming projects with an orphanage to help them become self-sufficient. There's an enormous amount of work yet to be done to help people in these communities get their lives back on track and experience the love of Christ for themselves."
More than 500 families are living in new cement-block homes across Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas through the efforts of the Florida Baptist Convention and the Confraternité Missionaire Baptiste d'Haiti, said Eddie Blackmon, Rebuild Haiti coordinator for Florida Baptist Disaster Relief.
"These homes have not only provided a safe haven for families once living in destruction and despair, but are also providing the local church an opportunity to share the love of Christ and be a light in a dark world," Blackmon said. "After the completion of each home, Rebuild Haiti pastors and case workers accompany local pastors to distribute Bibles to the recipient families and to pray with each family about their specific prayer requests.
"Through this follow-up individuals are coming to Christ, families are being restored, churches are being planted and lives are being changed," Blackmon added. "Rebuild Haiti is having an eternal impact for the Kingdom on the communities within which it is working."
Blackmon shared examples of the impact Florida Baptists are seeing:
-- Pastor Pierre, a case worker in Tabarre, is training young men in his church to share the Gospel.
-- Several families in a remote area of Gressier, where no church exists, made decisions to follow Jesus and asked for help starting a church.
-- Pastor Voltaire, working in the badly damaged area of Bon Repos, recently counseled a father who was concerned he had neglected his family spiritually. After receiving a Bible, the man was encouraged and expressed a desire to read from Scripture every night with his family.
The partnership with Southern Baptist volunteers has fortified the Haitian pastors' confidence in facing an uncertain future, Blackmon added. He quoted one pastor as saying, "All the buildings in Haiti could collapse again, but the Word of God will stand forever."
Bill Mathews, a volunteer from River Oak Church in Chesapeake, Va., said he was deeply impressed by the impact he saw Rebuild Haiti projects making in communities, as well as in people's lives.
"I worked in Bon Repo, Damien and Marmont. Seeing three different communities in different stages was something that really impacted me," Mathews said. "In Bon Repo, there were still lots of suspicions and taunts from the locals. A group of kids climbed a tree near where I was working and teased me while I worked. It was very clear that the program had not 'soaked in' enough in Bon Repo, but there was a toe-hold established.
"In Damien, a ton of work has been done and the community has been well-reached. There were lots of smiles and friendly faces there," Mathews added. "We all felt very safe the entire time we were there and our Haitian co-workers were very protective of us.
"The people in Marmont were friendly, hospitable and their church community was very strong. In Marmont, there was a mature community with a functioning church community that supported one another," Mathews said. "While we were there, we were asked to drive a pregnant lady in labor to the hospital, so we picked up the woman and three other people I assumed were her relatives. I later learned the other people were fellow church members and the pregnant woman worked at the church. When she needed help, it was her church family that responded. That was really cool!
"It was a wonderful blessing to spend time in three different communities. You could really see the Rebuild Haiti efforts are very effective at changing hearts and leading people to Christ," Mathews said. "It was an amazing experience. I am already trying to round up people at my church to go back."
Southern Baptists can thank God that He continues to change lives in Haiti, said Charlotte Davis, a retired International Mission Board missionary who serves as a stateside prayer advocate for the Haiti relief effort.
At the church in Bon Repos, which started a year ago after a prayerwalk and medical clinic in the community, members are meeting under a tarp but still hearing testimonies about the impact the relief effort has made.
"In a recent Sunday worship service, ... one young Haitian man stood and revealed a scar on his side as he told how he had almost died in a motorcycle accident a couple of years ago," Davis wrote in a July 27 prayer newsletter. "He shared with the group that everyone left the scene except an 'evangelical' who stayed with him, took him to the hospital, and prayed with him. Then he said to the group, 'I want to accept Christ -- now!'"
Davis asked for prayer that members of the Bon Repos church would grow spiritually.
"Pray that they will trust God to provide for their needs and to guide them as a church," Davis wrote. "Pray that many Haitians will be drawn to this congregation and have the desire to become a true follower of Jesus Christ."
Mark Kelly is senior writer and an assistant editor for Baptist Press. For more information on Rebuild Haiti, or to get involved, visit one of the following links:
International Mission Board
Florida Baptist Convention http://www.flbaptist.org/News/NewsandFeatures/HaitiEarthquakeRelief.aspx
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief http://www.namb.net/namb1pbdr.aspx?pageid=8589999091
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net